Jim McNerney, Boeing's chairman and CEO, began 2013 on a bad note as a lithium-ion battery meltdown led to an embarrassing three-month grounding of the 787 jet. Ten months later, it all seemed like a bad dream. In back-to-back press conferences at the Dubai Airshow, orders and commitments were announced for more than $100 billion worth of Boeing jets, including the newly launched 777X. It was—literally—McNerney's finest hour.
Like Boeing, the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry had its share of highs and lows in the tumultuous year of 2013. The U.S. Congress, abdicating its responsibility to govern, allowed indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts to take effect in March. The industry spent the ensuing months in a fog of uncertainty about the long-term future of individual Pentagon programs—exacerbated by a congressionally induced government shutdown—before lawmakers finally ended the year with a modest budget compromise that will provide some relief and stability in 2014.
By contrast, prosperity continued apace in the commercial aircraft industry, as robust demand for jetliners padded already bulging orderbooks at Airbus and Boeing. The Airbus A350 and Bombardier CSeries jets made their first flights, and the 777X and 787-10 programs were launched, continuing the industry's rollout of a new generation of more efficient aircraft. And to the delight of airframers and their suppliers, the Dubai show underscored how airlines outside the U.S. and Europe continue to reshape the market, with hundreds of billions of dollars in orders from Middle Eastern carriers.
We had our share of changes, too, at Aviation Week & Space Technology during my first year as editor-in-chief. On Aug. 1, our media, data and events businesses were acquired by Penton Media. Under Penton's umbrella, we're now teamed up with other leading aviation and aerospace brands, including Air Transport World and SpeedNews. Look for us to leverage that combined strength in 2014.
I am also proud to report that Aviation Week's global team continues to produce world-class aerospace journalism. Among our recent standouts were Senior Propulsion Editor Guy Norris's unveiling of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works' plans to develop a Mach 6 “SR-72” aircraft, which went viral on social media. Not to be outdone, senior defense editors Amy Butler and Bill Sweetman followed by revealing the existence of a stealthy unmanned U.S. penetrator aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman and flown in secret.
Those two scoops underscored Aviation Week's long history of unearthing what is going on behind-the-scenes in A&D. But I believe we also excel at basic blocking and tackling. We love to get something first—but not at the expense of not getting it right. That is not an easy sell in this age of instant information. We took some heat for putting up only one article on AviationWeek.com in the immediate aftermath of the Asiana 777 crash landing in San Francisco, while cable television news was breathlessly reporting every rumor. But our subsequent coverage of the crash by Norris and avionics and safety editor John Croft set us apart by digging into the issues surrounding the accident, including how the aircraft's fuselage structure held together, saving many lives. Numerous readers told us they turned to Aviation Week to see what was really going on because they trusted our reporting to be accurate.
But there is always room for improvement. Twice during the year I issued invitations for comments on how we could do better, and readers responded in droves, with reviews that ranged from gushing to cranky. We're listening. A number of longtime subscribers felt that Aviation Week had strayed too far from our technical heritage. We've responded by bolstering our coverage of avionics and producing features with deeper dives into critical new technologies that will advance this industry. We also increased our popular pilot reports, with chief aircraft evaluation editor Fred George producing articles (accompanied by online videos) on the Gulfstream G650, Airbus A400M, Dassault Falcon 2000S and Bombardier Learjet 75. Meanwhile, we sought to offer new perspectives to our readers by adding four guest columnists and transferring oversight of our commercial reporting team from the U.S. to managing editor Jens Flottau in Frankfurt.
The early returns are positive. In the first three quarters of 2013, new subscriptions were up 17% and subscriptions to our digital-only edition more than doubled, with a notable increase in Europe. Renewal rates in both print and digital also ticked up significantly.
So here I go again. What can we do to further improve the product? What topics do you want to read more—or less—about? I'm using the holidays to clean out my email inbox. Let us know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org